Antisemitism, “hostility or prejudice against Jewish people,” is a thing. It’s a thing that’s been around for thousands of years. One we Jewish people don’t understand and one which has been growing globally in a serious way over the past few decades as we have moved further from the shadows of the Holocaust and as the world watches while Israel has territorial and security issues with the West Bank and Gaza. The world watches and comments without understanding the history, the nuance and the facts of the conflict.
Eighteen months ago, I wanted to start an antisemitism advocacy group called “They All Hate Us.” Smart, educated, measured people in the Sydney, where I live, said, “you can’t call it that. It is so negative. “But it’s true”, I said, “everyone hates us”. Jewish people have been the meat in an antisemitic sandwich since the rise of the “Free Palestine Movement.” We now have left wing progressive “activists” believing that to respect the rights of Palestinians they must denounce Israel, which in America extends to excluding ALL Jews from progressive spaces. On the right side of politics, we still have traditional Neo-Nazi, white supremacist figures who would like us not to be here. Covid radicalised more people on both sides of that equation as we sat alone in front of computer screens for months at a time and algorithms made sure to move us to the extreme of either side of politics.
The gut feeling that “everyone” hated us compelled me to spend 18 months reading, learning, talking and meeting with leaders and advocates in my hometown and around the world, trying to understand where the “gap in the market” was, so to speak and where I could make a difference. At first, I thought I could go into corporate spaces in Australia from a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) angle and talk to corporates about antisemitism in this country and the fact that Jewish people make up only .05% of the population but cop the lion’s share of all racial hatred in this country with dangerously fast growth. It made sense that if corporate Australia was willing to talk to their staff about LGTBQ, women’s, First Nation’s, disability rights, maybe they would be willing to hear about the injustice I perceived when it came to the Jewish community and the lack of awareness, understanding and action. As I started to talk to my friends and their families about this, there were one of three responses.
The first was “we don’t have an antisemitism problem here in Australia.” The second was, “sorry, but no one is going to open the door for you to come in and talk about that.” My response was “I am going to bash down the door, or at the very least, call in a few favours.” The third, most common and most desperate response was, “I am really struggling at university and need some tools so that I can respond to the BDS proponents on campus, to antisemitic lecturers who make awful comments in class and to my non-Jewish friends who think that Israel is a colonialist, apartheid, genocidal country with good hummus but bad skills when it comes to playing nicely with others.”
And there we had it – the fallacy that Israel should be playing nicely with the ruling body of Gaza, Hamas, a terrorist group that has governed Gaza since 2007 and which is unwilling to negotiate peace with Israel on any level. A body which is not only an Iranian proxy, but one which has systematically sent tens of thousands of missiles into Israel and has stated that its raison d’etre is to rid the world of Jews everywhere and to eradicate the State of Israel. Nice neighbours if you can get them right? And we haven’t even covered the neighbours on the other side yet.
It struck me, as my own algorithms made it all too clear, that antisemitism was alive and well under new guises called “anti-Israel,” the “Free Palestine Movement”, “BDS” alongside “Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein are rich white Jewish rapists” that maybe we Jews had a new iteration of a 3,000-year-old problem.
So, what to do? They all hate us, they all hate us, they all hate us, but maybe that’s because they don’t really know us and maybe that’s because we don’t really know ourselves. Ask Jewish people everywhere about our history as a people, the history of Israel, the history of this conflict and why Palestinian people are stuck in Gaza in the first place and the response is “it’s complicated.” Grass roots education in our own community seemed to be the best use of my time and energy because Jewish diaspora youth have no way of defending themselves against the new frontier of antisemitism and if Jews can’t understand this mess, how can anyone else?
It was all coming together slowly but nicely with a new name, “Jewcy,” and I was resigned to spilling the juice on how much Jews have had to contend with over thousands of years of hatred and explaining and dissecting this “new antisemitism.”
With communal support and talk of collaboration from quite a few interested organisations, I really was getting somewhere. It was starting to happen, and I could see a path forward after what seemed like an insanely long road to get there. “Yes,” I thought, “all our kids will soon understand that Israel is our safe place, that Israel has a right to self-determination and self-defence, and we can surely make the non-Jewish woke world see that. We just need to spend a little time arming our youth with historical facts and context and importantly, a dual narrative so that they can also understand the world from the perspective of a Palestinian. Then they can advocate for themselves on university campuses.” Simple right?
Fast forward to Saturday 7 October when over 1000 Hamas terrorists stormed across the border into Israel and murdered 250 innocent young Israelis who were dancing at a music festival. They simultaneously went into homes and shot entire families while filming their barbarism on the phones of the victims and forwarding the footage to family members. They murdered, decapitated, and burned tiny babies and gang raped our women, parading their bloody bodies through the streets of Gaza. Some were dead and naked and some still alive. There are still over 150 Israeli citizens being held hostage in Gazan tunnels as brokering chips. The killings at the music festival alone are four times greater than America’s worst mass shooting in Vegas in 2017.
The couple of days following this hideous event (where the Jewish world lost more lives in any one day since the Holocaust), the response from every Instagram celebrity who would normally post about such heinous acts to show their caring and benevolent character was as deathly silent as the aftermath of the music festival where 250 bodies lay actually dead.
Could it REALLY be possible that these so called “humans” cared more about the potential loss of instagram followers and friends than about the loss of Jewish lives? Non-Jewish people on and offline insinuated sheepishly that Israel had it coming and within two days there was a rally on the steps of the Opera House where Free Palestine supporters burned Israeli flags and chanted “gas the Jews” and f#&*k the Jews” – not “f#&*k” Israel, but rather, ALL Jews, everywhere. The NSW State police sent text messages which circulated around our community telling us to stay out of the city that night, so imagine the despair of the Jewish community when we realised that we were being held in our own figurative “bomb shelters” to make room for an aggressive and hateful demonstration against our ancestral homeland and our people. I would like to ask WHEN, EVER has a people or place been attacked by barbaric animals and then those who are attacked become the recipients of the hate? Seriously, the only answer to that has to be The Holocaust.
My pain and despair and that of everyone around me has been visceral. I have never sobbed like this. I can’t phone a friend because I can’t speak. Eve Barlow summed up my tears and brokenness in one post. “The silence. The bystanders. The justifications. The ignorance. The hatred: pure hatred and mistrust of Jewish people. It is what I feared for years and never wanted to believe was true.”
And HOW, how in 2023 are we still in this place where they all hate us? Have we learned nothing from history about senseless hate and about good versus evil? My pain and guilt over the fact that I couldn’t do enough fast enough for our Sydney kids who need it more than ever in this moment is real, but much, MUCH worse is the gut-wrenching, defeating realisation that enough would never be enough when it comes to this level of misinformation, misunderstanding and contempt.
It’s been hard to ask people to understand and internalise the fact that Hamas is a terrorist group not a bunch of freedom fighters. Their end game is to wipe Israel and all Jews off the map, but they would also happily dispose of members of the LGBTQ community (they literally throw them off balconies in Gaza), women, Christians, Westerners (especially Americans) and even moderate Muslims who don’t subscribe to their radical ideology. They are a group which don’t care about the welfare and well-being of the Palestinian people, most of whom are innocent pawns in their bigger game. While Israel has today told Palestinian residents to leave Gaza, Hamas has told them to stay put. Hamas needs footage of civilian death and destruction to make Israel look worse in the eyes of the world. Israel has clearly warned Gaza of its impending military attack and its desire to destroy Hamas weaponry as opposed to its people and let’s remember that this is in response to Hamas giving Israel no warning when they crossed the border to butcher innocent Israeli civilians and then brag about it.
So, what is left to do here as the Jewish world sits in its grief and knows all too well that it will take us generations to replace this loss of life as well as come close to healing the collective and ongoing intergenerational trauma. For Jewish people my message is stand openly and proudly Jewish and show the world who you really are and what you really believe in. We are a peace-loving people who value goodness, charity, acts of kindness and diversity. Most of us have prayed for decades for a two-state solution with the Palestinians and to lead a peaceful existence with our neighbours. But the most important thing we can do in this moment is to learn – learn our history, the facts, the truth so that even in your own minds, you can speak to the situation and drown out the haters with fact and reason. Our future depends on education not emotion!
To non-Jewish people, I urge you to also read some of the literature and try and understand the complex history of this conflict and to understand what has led to this situation. I also beg you to ask your Jewish friends if they are ok right now, because I can assure you that they are not. We are not ok. We have lost family, some whose names we don’t even know. Every Jewish person is family to every other Jewish person. Israel and the Jewish world are tiny. We literally all know someone who is dead, has lost a loved one, is fighting in the Israeli Defence Force or in a bomb shelter right now. We are not ok. We haven’t been ok for about three thousand years, and learning about us will explain why.
Noa Tishby – Israel; A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country On Earth
Alex Ryvchin – Zionism – The Concise History
Micah Goodman – Catch 67
Dov Waxman – The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Bari Weiss – How to fight Antisemitism
Yosi Klein Halevi – Letters to my Palestinian Neighbour